The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

City Council candidates answer questions: Part 2


October 4, 2016

CANDIDATES for Sweet Home City Council are, at top, from left, Andrew Allen, Susan Coleman, Diane Gerson and James Goble. Below, from left, are Lisa Gourley, Theresa Howard, Lisa Pye and Dave Trask.

Eight candidates are running for four City Council seats in the Nov. 8 election.

The top four candidates in the election will serve terms beginning Jan. 1. The top three will serve four-year terms. The fourth-place candidate will serve a two-year term.

The New Era has presented a list of 18 questions to the candidates and is publishing their answers weekly through Oct. 19, when ballots are delivered to local post offices.

Members of the public are invited to attend a City Council candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Jim Riggs Community Center.

Candidates’ answers have been organized in randomized order, using The original order was Susan Coleman, incumbent Dave Trask, Theresa Howard, Andrew Allen, incumbent Diane Gerson, Lisa Gourley, Lisa Pye and incumbent James Goble. In the following questions, the list is adjusted downward by one, with the eighth candidate moved to the top.

What role do you think the council should play in terms of leadership?

Lisa Gourley: Leadership for council members lies in their responsibility to make sound policy. They must listen to the advice of both council and our community. Their leadership and obligation is to make decisions that represent us with an open and balanced perspective.

Lisa Pye: City Council members are voted in by the citizens of the city. Their role is to represent the citizens through decision making on behalf of the citizens.

James Goble: To lead, to do this, you must listen to the people. You are there to serve as their leaders. To be a good leader, one must listen, learn, be open and honest and always act in the best interest of the ones they serve over themselves.

Susan Coleman: The council’s leadership responsibility is to oversee the best use of the city’s resources to care for the health, safety and welfare of Sweet Home’s citizens.

Dave Trask: We should communicate with all involved and try to lead accordingly.

Theresa Howard: I believe the City Council should try to give the people as much information on the goings-on as is possible thus giving them the tools to make positive decisions.

Andrew Allen: Council needs to make sure we have at least one individual at any major community event or forum. They should also carry suggestion sheets for citizens to voice their ideas. They should also have a basic knowledge of community resources to guide citizens towards committees, programs and department heads that can do a great job in answering their questions.

Diane Gerson: The City Council should be the leadership body of the community, pointing the way to determine needed services, searching out the opportunities and moving toward growth with a thoughtful and visionary plan.

Water and sewer rates have been a contentious, difficult issue for the current City Council. Future projects include upgrades to the existing Wastewater Treatment Plant, which consultants say are necessary to meet state and federal regulations. What would be your priority in setting water and sewer rates?

Lisa Pye: My priority would involve gaining an understanding of the water rates, analyzing the budget for the rates and the cost of upgrading the water rates system. Another issue I find with water rates is the lack of rate description on the water bills. The time to locate the rates on the city page is cumbersome. The rates listed on the utility page are 2014-15 User Rates. When looking at my utility bill, the rate charge per 100 cubic units and how many units are over the 400 cubic units are not listed.

James Goble: To help find ways to best benefit the community and still keep up our ever-so-failing infrastructure.

Susan Coleman: All budget issues need to be reviewed to find the best solutions that balance living within the regulations and the affordability of the solutions for those residing here.

Dave Trask: To keep rates as low as possible.

Theresa Howard: I’d like to know why the rates are going up. Water and sewer have their own budgets, and the treatment plant was just redone a few years ago. Have there been savings already for new pipes when needed?

Andrew Allen: Costs and revenues have to balance. We’d be better off doing smaller incremental rate raises, placing those new funds into a savings fund for these large projects and realizing that as unpopular as rate raises are, when we don’t take care of our infrastructure and kick the costs down the road, we end up costing our citizens more in the long run.

Diane Gerson: Water is a precious commodity for Oregon and should not be wasted. We need to have rates that address the wastewater needs but offer some stability for the consumer. Increasing rates each year does not offer that stability. We need to come up with a plan to fund the needs over a period of years and stick with it.

Lisa Gourley: These projects will always exceed the amount of our revenue. Affordability of our water and sewer rates is essential for our community. Keeping the rates as low as possible should always be the priority.

A city councilor has made a priority of building three new crosswalks, with flashing lights and pedestrian islands in the middle of the highway between Clark Mill Road and Wiley Creek Drive. Would you support this? Is this a priority?

James Goble: Yes, I fully support the crosswalks and feel we need more throughout our town.

Susan Coleman: I believe the safety of the citizens of Sweet Home is a high priority. I would be interested to learn whether pedestrian signs in that area would be heeded or whether they would give a false sense of security to pedestrians.

Dave Trask: The only concern I have is how to finance the projects. I’m certainly not opposed to safe crosswalks.

Theresa Howard: I drove from Clark Mill to Wiley Creek Drive, and I saw only one place that in my opinion would benefit from having a crosswalk with flashing lights, no island, and that’s at 49th and Main at the top of the hill where several fatal accidents have occurred. School zones should have flashing lights again.

Andrew Allen: I like the idea but I am concerned in how to make it truly safe with the highway speeds in these areas. I think this is a two-year project with planning with ODOT and citizen input.

Diane Gerson: I live in this area and see people crossing Highway 20 all the time, some carefully, some not. I also walk this area on a regular basis and know the traffic is going faster than the posted 45 mph. If the crosswalks would slow traffic, I might support it. However, people will probably not walk up or down to a crosswalk but cut across the road where it is convenient, so it may not solve a perceived problem.

Lisa Gourley: Funds are limited in the City of Sweet Home. We need to make sure that we spend our money with the best possible impacts. We need to evaluate all public safety concerns and make priorities. Based on those safety concerns and the best use of available funds.

Lisa Pye: My first question would include whether this helps the well-being of the community as a whole and then safety. Another question is to address the funding for the crosswalks. If the money is coming from grants that are for this purpose, then the issue comes down to making sure the money is used for the purpose.

The City Council forced the previous city manager to retire earlier this year. What do you think of this decision? If you would have done something differently, what would that have been?

Susan Coleman: As I was not involved in this decision or privy to many of the reasons as to why it was done, I have no comment.

Dave Trask: I wouldn’t use the word “forced.” I was in favor of a change.

Theresa Howard: Due to privacy laws, we don’t have the reason for Mr. Martin leaving Sweet Home, but my guess is he objected to something that the city wanted to do, and he was forced to retire.

Andrew Allen: Not a fan of the move, especially the execution of it without a plan. From being involved in two other towns – business in Brownsville, lived and served on committees in La Grande – I think Craig did a good job. Yet the way the current council executed this change, I feel they lack an ability to plan. We should have had a plan to allow him to serve until a proper replacement had been found.

Diane Gerson: I was not on the council for this decision and do not know all the particulars as the process was not transparent. However, I think the decision was ill-timed and seemed to indicate more was involved than what we, the public, were privy to.

Lisa Gourley: I think it’s very difficult to look at decisions made by others. I believe that possibly using mediation might have prevented that outcome.

Lisa Pye: I do not have a full understanding as to the removal of the city manager, but a change in city manager occurs when there is a change in the majority of the council and political tension exisst. Also, the average tenure for city managers in cities with populations less than 30,000 is 20 years compared to larger cities where the average tenure is seven years.

James Goble: I feel that he had a good career as city manager, as most managers have a five to seven-year tenure. I feel it could have been done more openly with the community; but as one door closes, one door has opened with a new potential candidate who I feel is what we need to take our town to the next level and still incorporate everything that’s made us who we are today.

The councilors involved stated when announcing their decision regarding the city manager that they believed a change of direction was necessary. What do you think?

Dave Trask: I agree with the council decision.

Theresa Howard: I am still waiting for the answer to the question regarding the change of direction. What direction do they want to go?

Andrew Allen: No, Craig has a vested interest in doing what is best for the community and his continued involvement in Beautification and other organizations and not wishing to move from Sweet Home tells me his heart is here. Having worked with Craig (serving on Parks and Budget committees), he tried to make sure the rules were followed and to be fair to the citizens.

Diane Gerson: Since the council has not adopted goals prior to this decision and thus did not have a “direction” publicly stated, I find that to be a questionable reason.

Lisa Gourley: My direction may also be different than theirs. New city council members coming on board will also have new directions.

Lisa Pye: If change is needed to get the city going in the direction the citizens of the community want, then the change is a necessary one.

James Goble: As I was a new council member at that time, I heard and read over the items that were going on at that time. I also spoke with all parties and agree it was the best decision.

Susan Coleman: (No comment).


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